Poverty and hope are the currencies traded in the southeastern part of Arkansas that is the stage for Jeff Nichol’s feature debut. This is a land of downriver people whose luckless lives are tied to the Mississippi-enriched alluvial soils, dusty old frame houses and station wagons. Three brothers are stumbling their way through this life. There’s Son (Michael Shannon), the mysterious, iconic hard working older brother, unemployed basketball coach Boy (Douglas Ligon) and the young and in love Kid (Barlow Jacobs). When news reaches them that their father has died, they decide to go to the funeral. Here they come face to face with their half brothers and a feud erupts – from which no good can come.
Nichol’s slow burn modern western plays like a sour, white trash retelling of Henry Hathaway’s 1965 film The Sons of Katie Elder, where all mothers are hateful and revenge is always a regrettable offshoot of envy. Shotgun Stories is essentially a parable about grief and the futility of hostility, but, as produced by the singularly talented filmmaker David Gordon Green (George Washington, All The Real Girls, Undertow) it becomes something more tantalising and opaque that hints at but never fully embraces the Southern Gothic traditions of Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews. With it’s impressive low-key performances, sparse mumbled dialogue, brief vignettes and neo-realist feel, Shotgun Stories is imbued with the significant aesthetics of the great Mississippi raised filmmaker Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger).
Cameo, Edinburgh and selected cinemas from Fri 23 May.